Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Christmas in July? Bah Humbug, I Say

By K. Taylor, Aurora ON.  Aha, Christmas in July. There was an extra $840 in my bank account this morning. It’s hard not to get excited about that. For even the most affluent, $840 must be a lot of money. This lump sum is what the federal government feels my kids are worth; $420 each. Or at least that’s what they figure it costs to raise them. Of course it doesn’t end there; there is also another $60 per child on it’s way to us every month until they reach 18, when presumably children stop costing their parents money. This is true, no? Please say yes.

So even this cynical heart gave a little flutter of delight. I have not felt that shiver of excitement since Christmas morning as a child; stretching out my toes to feel the solid weight of a filled stocking at the end of my bed. Employment minister Pierre Poilievre has called it Christmas in July. Christmas indeed! Why, Mr. Poilievre is no less than a bespectacled Mr. Claus in a Tory blue golf shirt. Dust off the twinkling lights and throw a batch of sugar cookies in the oven; Santa’s in the house.

“If Mr. Poilievre is Santa; then your friendly neighbourhood taxman is the Easter Bunny.”

Ah, if only it were that simple. Did I mention I feast on cynicism as if it were drowned in gravy and served with a side of mashed potatoes and Brussels sprouts? And so the heady delight of all that money is quickly chased away but the dawning of reality, as cold and dreary as January. If Mr. Poilievre is Santa; then your friendly neighbourhood taxman is the Easter Bunny; and instead of chocolate eggs this year, you’ll be handing back a big chunk of all that moula.

That’s because this money is taxable. Some Christmas gift. Can you imagine if we were all so Scrooge-ish? Enjoy the tie, Dad; that will cost you $4.67 in April. I take cash or cheque.

The numbers I’ve seen aren’t a pittance either. According to the CBC instead of the $60 per month we think we’re getting per child, what we will actually end up with after taxes is much, much lower. With the cancellation of the existing child tax credit in addition to the taxes we’ll pay; most people will end up with less than $20 extra per child per month.

Then there’s the thorny issue of child care. After all, that is what this money is for, right? Says so right in the name; Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB). If you can find child care for $20 per month outside of say, Siberia or Inner Mongolia, I’d be rather surprised. Of course the point is that it’s for parents to do as they see fit, but let’s not pretend it has anything to do with child care, this kind of money wouldn’t even cover the sitter while you nip out for the job interview.

And let‘s leave off the questionable jokes about beer and popcorn too (though sirloin steak and craft brewery jokes may, in some cases, be appropriate.) Most parents will put the money towards the kids, or at least the family. Let’s face it, we’re suckers for those wide eyes and gap-toothed grins. In more affluent families this means it will be chip away at the cost of golf camp, power skating or Registered Education Savings Plans (RESP). For the rest it will mean, well, not much.

I personally don’t work outside the home, and am happy with the arrangement. And it is just as well that I am. You see, I’ve crunched the numbers, and assuming (probably quite generously) that I could find a job, and find a job at the same pay as the one I left over ten years ago; we’d barely break even. Summer care, and before/after school care cost a darn sight more than $20 a month. They cost more than $60 a month for that matter and by the time I had paid for them we’d be ahead by $50-$100 a week, tops. Now $50-$100 is nothing to sneeze at but that would soon be eaten up by luxuries like gasoline. Make no mistake, child care – even with both kids in full time school – would feast on that salary like Uncle Norm on grandma‘s shortbread, leaving nothing behind but crumbs. And the UCCB will do nothing to change that.

I think most people realise that the timing of this announcement, with an election looming, is no coincidence. We see it for what it is, a dangling carrot to lure us over to the blue side. Whether this is good or bad is for us to decide for ourselves. But what we do deserve to know, is how much of that carrot we’re going to have to spit back out.

Now if you’ll excuse me I have some Christmas cards to write, and a turkey to stuff. And I’ll be sure to save the drumstick; for the taxman.

K. Taylor
Aurora, ON


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